ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Create Connections to Retain Your Contact Center Staff

A laptop saying to be kindThe Great Resignation is cooling off, and the recent wave of tech layoffs signals we may soon be in a buyer’s market for employers. There is no rest for the weary for contact center HR personnel, however, as the industry inevitably still will have to deal with ever-present issues of employee churn and disengagement.

The combination of these two recent employment trends may have exposed the limit of our more complex efforts to create a workplace culture that will keep employees connected to businesses. For the past decade, the larger players of Silicon Valley, secure in their ability to innovate and flush with venture capital cash, have attempted to create an adult playground in which its employees would never want to leave - the employer became the daycare provider, the laundromat, the meals provider, the entertainment venue, and more. Other less-wealthy enterprises have put in a lot of time and effort to make sure each employee is locked in on a shared mission and shared values. The hope of these initiatives was that the employees would feel happily tethered and engaged with the business - that each role would become more than a job.

Unfortunately, this made it all the more jarring when we read news stories of workers waking up to find themselves locked out of their computers and unceremoniously laid off. The headlines are a wakeup call, career counselors have said - that your employer is not your family or your friend. Instead, they said we should remember that employment is a social contract between labor and management, in which the needs of both entities must be met to thrive.

But in the traditional race to deploy enterprise-scale initiatives to cultivate a positive workplace culture, we may be overlooking the hidden power frontline contact center managers have in retaining a quality workforce. Because they are physically interacting with their agents the most, they alone may be able to create the most powerful sense of connection with those who work directly with them.

Step away from work for a second and think about the people you are close to in your life. What did they provide you with? Stock options? A new buzzword? Hopefully, they provided you with love, warmth, security, and shared mutual understanding. These values are so important to us that we often may be willing to stick with these people - be they family or friends - through thick and thin, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. That’s because we, as humans, are social creatures and crave to be deeply connected with others who care about us.

Now, as we just said, your employer cannot be your friend or your family. However, managers may be able to find a way to create those deeply human moments with those who directly report to them through small actions. They, alone, may find the moments of kindness to offer frontline workers that could make all the difference in retaining those workers. There is no special sauce or program for doing this - it simply requires the time and ability to employ empathy.

Consider the following opportunities for empathy, and what they might mean for employees:

  • A contact center worker is having a particularly rough call. The manager sees the employee in distress, and listens in, then chats to ask if the employee needs support. Afterwards, the manager ensures the employee has the chance for a break and/or debrief.
  • A necessary but negative review to remediate performance issues clearly leaves a worker frustrated. The manager checks in a week after the review, not to discuss performance at all, but instead to simply see how the worker is feeling.
  • A worker has a last-minute emergency and can’t make their shift. Even if this absence creates disruption and the manager has to later discuss scheduling expectations with the worker, the manager also makes a point to ask if the emergency is resolved and if the employee needs additional assistance.

Frontline managers may make all the difference in these seemingly small make-or-break moments for their direct reports, and those moments may have a much bigger impact than company-wide initiatives. After all, when was the last time you discussed a corporate acronym at the dinner table? Now, when was the last time you discussed an act of kindness?

In this age of belt tightening, when perks may be curtailed and resources for company-wide initiatives could become scarce, be sure to empower your frontline managers to be kind. It could make all the difference in turnover.